Staying sane and surviving exam season – 10 top tips for parents

I ask my teenage daughter if she wants a cup of tea. This goes badly, starting with eye-rolling and a snarky comment before this quickly escalating to it all being my fault, her screaming at me that I know nothing about the pressure she is under, and culminating in a slammed bedroom door, stomping, crying, and zero revision being done again. For the third night in a row.

Exam season is tough, and one that tests parents of teenagers to the limits of their endurance, patience and own well – being. So how do you survive? Here’s ten top tips that might help.

1. When a young person is very upset – it’s our job to share our calm, rather than join their chaos. Step away if you need to. If you are stressed you aren’t going to handle it well. Take 5 minutes to go for a walk, take some deep breaths or do something less stressful.

2. Have a plan – work with your teenager to set up a revision timetable. Start early – our year 10s have the luxury of time, our year 11s are up against it at this time of year. Aim for short sharp bursts of revision (30 minutes per subject) then encourage them to stick to it. Bribery works wonders. If you get a plan, and they do it, find a way to build in short term rewards to keep them motivated. Money is good, as are Prom rewards – hair, nails, make-up, suit, Hummer etc. You’ll pay for it anyway, why not link it as a positive to keep the bigger picture in mind?

3. Make them revise where you can see them. Doing revision in their own room + access to phone and social media = disaster. Set aside a quiet space in your home to let them spread out their revision guides, blu tac things to the walls and make that their work space.

4. Agree to step away from the phone and IPad. If they are distracted by these things agree that they are handed over during their revision time. It’s a difficult conversation to have, but well worth it in the long run.

5. Get plenty of supplies. Provide highlighters, paper, coloured pens, even lining paper. Youngsters need to do active revision. They need to organise lots of information and do something active with it to help the knowledge to ‘stick’. It might look like an academic bombsite by the time they have finished, but it’s worth it.

6. Have a well-being plan for your youngster. They will need regular breaks and enjoyment at this time in their life. Practising yoga and mediations can help keep them calm. So can sports and exercise. There are plenty of You Tube videos on yoga, free mediations and I’m recommending a website called ‘Meditainment’. Try to encourage your youngster to use their bedroom to relax and try some of these activities. Focusing on breathing and relaxation will help it become like ‘muscle memory’ and easier to draw on if they are prone to becoming stressed out.

7. Find out and access the examination board pages your youngster is taking. Look at how they are assessed and when. There are examples of past papers and mark schemes (the answers) that are free to download. You might kill a forest in the process, but allowing youngsters to try out exam papers in non-threatening conditions takes away the ‘Yuck Factor’ of dealing with a formal exam in the real deal.

8. Make sure that they rest. The brain needs rest to process and assimilate information. Stick to a calming routine around bedtime and a consistent bedtime.

9. Be organised. Know the exam dates and when they are going to be under lots of pressure. They may have 2 exams in one day, plan ahead for a special tea on that night, or just be aware they might need extra TLC on that date.

10. Phone a friend. It’s a testing time for your parenting skills too!

If you need further exam support for your teenagers then visit the lovely Helen Harry at Think Tuition

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